In their second-straight weekend against provincial opponents, the No.2 University of Alberta Golden Bears host the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in a two-game series.
Puck drop on Friday is 7:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena, while Saturday's tilt begins at 6:00 p.m.
Although Lethbridge’s 2-17-3 record places them last in the Canada West standings, the 19-2-1 Bears can ill afford to take a night off as they are only three points back of the top-ranked team in CIS and conference-leading Calgary Dinos. And, after splitting with Mount Royal last weekend, the Bears essentially need to win all of their remaining games in order to have a hope at catching first.
The 20-0-2 Dinos are in Saskatoon this weekend to face the third-place and 12-9-1 Saskatchewan Huskies, a team hungry to clinch a playoff spot, so Alberta could potentially gain some ground in the standings.
The Bears had an opportunity to do that this past weekend, with Calgary allowing three straight goals in a 3-2 overtime loss in Vancouver to the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday but Alberta suffered an extra time loss of their own, a 4-3 decision to the Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary, courtesy an Eric Galbraith hat trick.
The Golden Bears bounced back Saturday afternoon with a 6-1 win in Edmonton yet the Dinos did as well, earning a 3-1 result that evening.
The perennial provincial foes will finish their seasons with a home-and-home series against each other so Alberta will, at a minimum, need to keep pace with the Dinos in the standings if they hope to claim home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Golden Bears are 5-0-1 so far in the month of January with team captain Sean Ringrose leading the scoring with 10 points in six games. The former Medicine Hat Tiger is also on an eight-game point streak, netting 13 points dating back to November 29, 2013.
Torrie Dyck, a former Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference MVP, is also working on an eight-game streak that began as a goal-scoring streak as well, but that was snapped last Friday against Mount Royal, the Hudson Bay, Sask. native still picking up an assist that night and one more on Saturday to coincidentally make it 13 points in eight games, too.
At the other end of the scoring spectrum, last Saturday was the first home game of the newest Golden Bear, Joel Östman, the first-ever European-born player to play for the Bears. The native of Stockholm, Sweden earned his first CIS point in the second period on a goal by Kruise Reddick and finished +2.
Collectively, the Alberta defence scored six points in the home-and-home series last weekend and currently account for 27% of Alberta’s offence.
Lethbridge’s offence, on the other hand, has struggled, scoring only 36 goals in 22 games, or an average of 1.64, yet the defence may be the more interesting story.
In the last four weekends, the Pronghorns have allowed a total of 33 goals in their first game of a two-game series (average of 8.25) but only eight in their second game (average of 2), yet the starting goalie has varied as well.
Granted, the numbers are a bit more extreme when considering the 14-2 loss Lethbridge endured on January 10 against Calgary, getting outshot 42-21, but third-year netminder Alex Sirard, who let in seven of the 14 before getting pulled, followed with a 63-save performance the following night in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Dinos.
Sirard then followed with letting in three goals on nine shots on January 17, Saskatchewan paving their way to a 7-1 win before Pronghorn third-year ‘tender Dylan Tait made 35 saves a night later in another 2-1 overtime loss.
Four of Lethbridge’s six top scorers are rookies, Ryon Moser leading the offensive charge with 13 points.